October 2017

Looking for that perfect ride to make the 2018 season the best ever has lead me on a wild goose chase through a maze of jack of all trades master of none frames. Most of the XC bikes such as the Niner RKT, Cannondale Scalpel, and Scott Spark RC are a lean towards purpose built race machines with steep headtube angles, low bottom brackets, and almost fragile construction built to shave off every last gram. A curious niche has evolved in the 100mm -120mm range which encompasses the Yeti Sb4.5, Niner Jet 9 RDO, Pivot Mach 429, and many others. Tipping the scales between 5.5 lbs – 6lbs, this new shortish travel niche is neither enduro nor xc / endurance race ready and seems to be more a less a curiosity for some of us who favor terrain specific builds.

There have been reports highlighting the competitive nature of industry’s attempt to try and market to repeat customers with 29ers, 27.5ers, fat bikes, plus bikes, or “upgrades” such as boost in order to maintain sales since millennials have not embraced mountain biking nearly as much as expected or predicted in sales forecasts. One logical conclusion is buying a mountain bike is an expensive proposition especially for new graduates who have been socked with college debt. Dropping $7000.00 on a new mountain bike presents a mighty challenge and dropping $7000.00 for several bikes quickly passes the cost of many passenger cars. The technology that has launched this sport forward might also be responsible for holding back further advancement as consumers look for just one bike to do it all.

With Yeti discontinuing the ASR, I had hoped the SB4.5 might be a serious replacement for heading out the door and logging miles on rougher terrain. Unfortunately the listed weight of 5.28lbs fell short of the actual 5.87 lbs on my alpine scale for the medium Turq frame. My 2018 build will be the first to feature 1×12 Sram Eagle, so not having the front derailer aka derailleur is far from a deal breaker, however the single water bottle cage on the bottom side of the downtube presents hydration issues on those packless rides. PF92 bottom brackets also solve a non-existent problem and leave many of us looking for solutions to solve the solution to the non-existent problem. Sending the deer running and driving your riding buddies insane, Press Fit invites creaking, poor fitting, and in extreme cases, damage to the shell. From an engineering perspective, Press Fit does not consider standardization such a torque requirements. Anyone with a headset press can in theory introduce compressive failure since headset presses do not have compression gauges. Not that anyone has actually cracked their shell with a headset press, but a proper standard such as 5 n-m torque has not been assigned by most manufactures. My other gripe with press fit revolves around thermal contraction or expansion. Here in Arizona, my Niner Air 9 carbon with a press fit BB seems to become extra creaky on hot days. Though minor issues, the sum of compromises presents me with a frame that would actually dictate how I ride instead of serving as a tool to improve my current riding style or make that riding style more fun. This same philosophy seems to be echoed in lower bottom bracket trends, where riders are held responsible for pedal strikes and no blame shall ever be passed onto the geometry. Swapping 175mm to 170mm cranks is yet another solution to a non-existent problem. Of course, most riders would agree some of those old school 14 in + bottom brackets produced terribly misbehaved trail bikes.

After much anticipation and excitement, I’m spending a Saturday boxing the frame and initiating a return instead of building in the shade with my Park Tool Apron and a cold beer. When you are spending $3400.00 for a frame, the compromises should be few if any. On order for next week is an ASR Turq that will require parting out and rebuilding as a 1×12 Eagle XX. I’m sure Yeti has thoroughly conducted their market research before releasing the SB4.5, however in my opinion keeping the ASR and jumping to the SB5 without a step in between would seem more logical. Still the Switch Infinity is the only suspension design I have ever ridden without pedal bob, so having an xc-ish bike with SI might be quite appealing to certain riders.

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Completing that summer in New Jersey was my final ride, an exploration day at Jonathan Woods Preserve in Booton. While far from an all day epic or trail system worthy of driving to NJ from out of state, Jonathan Woods embodied a bit of that raw old school unimproved trail riding, where horse paths have been reclaimed by the forests and converted to singletrack through time rather than intentional construction. Riding several hours in NJ without seeing another hiker or rider is next to impossible in the most densely populated state, however at Jonathan Woods, you can really forget yourself and enjoy getting lost in a peaceful woodland just 30 miles west of New York.

Rolling through the thicket is hardly a place to claim a KOM on Strava. Instead anyone willing to roll these trails will be reminded of the days where an Avocet Speedometer was considered advanced technology on a steel Fat Chance. For those looking to really be aggressive, a Rockshox Judy would turn the trail chatter into slightly less trail chatter when perfectly lubed and tuned. Long before races, KOMs, bike parks, and shuttles, riding was very much about the simple adventures and joys of getting lost in nature.

Jonathan Woods offered unlikely surprises like this area of tall pines where New Jersey Oaks and Maples meet Vermont pines or these granite rocks were stacked tall by the Ogre of Ogden on his way to a local dinner for morning corn beef hash and buttermilk pancakes.

To clock some decent weekend miles, I parked at the Tourne County Park and looped the Tourne, followed the river, and climbed up Glen Beach to the entrance of Jonathan Woods off Kitchell Rd.

My understanding is these trails were really hammered by Sandy back in 2012 and took quite a while for local maintainers to clear all the downed trees. With the Morris Country Park service now overseeing resource management, a master plan for future development should be on the table for public discussion in October. Toning down the raw elements, constructing some new singletrack in accordance with modern standards for sustainability, and preserving the natural woodland feel could easily launch this area on to the top of my riding list. Linking Jonathan Woods to Split Rock would open up endless opportunities for exploration and longer rides without riding riding in circles on a postage stamp. Lewis Morris and the Tourne have some great trails, however the limited size of these parks, usually means repeating the same trails or finding yourself back at the start after 15-20 minutes. In the meantime, this little diamond in the rough offers a little local adventure with some fun technical moments following the ridgeline along the red trail shortly before the Hog Pen Rocks.

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Beyond the inherent difficulties of spending an extended time with the folks when you hit the big 40, finally unpacking boxes dating back to my college years, high school, and from our first apartment in Germany was a bit of a trip down memory lane. Selling my two old jeeps also weighed heavy on the heart, however cleaning out the garage as a step towards helping them along the road to retirement was long overdue. At this point, time really is a limited resource and wrenching on old jeeps is no longer a hobby with any sort of high priorities on my list.

The 1962 CJ5 required a new thermostat, cooling system bleed, a thorough cleaning, and a new starter after the seized flywheel resulted in starter shaft cracking on the first attempt to get her running. Really the work was a long day in the high humidity and the mosquitoes presented more frustration than undoing rusted bolts. A real nice gentlemen moving from NY to FL took the Jeep along with him and became hooked on wrenching within the first week of ownership. Such a great classic deserves a loving home instead of 150 year old damp Jersey garage.

Saying goodbye to my 1982 CJ7 was much harder as I had invested so much time and effort into the restoration and enjoyed so many trips with the lady and dog in the desert around Las Cruces, NM. At the same time, memories of breaking u-joints, sheared drive shafts, hours of tinkering with the old carb, and popped head gaskets serve as a reminder that beyond nostalgia old jeeps are nothing more than old machines. With dreams of taking to the road in an RV or finally buying a small place in Durango, CO, I can safely say my classic car days are most likely over for good.




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